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Internal Review

Parks Department study
prompts review of practices

Recommendations include
accounting, managing changes

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(March 2010) – A recent study of the strengths and weaknesses of the Madison Parks and Recreation Department yielded some positive changes for city hall as a whole, said Mayor Tim Armstrong.
The city paid $13,000 for consultant Woodburn, Kyle and Co. to review the management and procedures of the Parks Department in an effort to increase revenue and reduce expenses. In January, the results of the study were presented to the Parks Board.
“It was a good study with great directional value,” said consultant Peter Woodburn. “As we expected, we found the venues, such as Crystal Beach Pool, are highly respected.”

Madison Parks
Department Facilities

Bicentennial Park Broadway Fountain
Brown Gymnasium
City Campground
Crystal Beach Pool
Fireman’s Park
Gaines Park
Hargan-Matthews Park
Jaycee Park
John Paul Park
Johnson Lake Park
Kiwanis Park
Lamplighter Park
Lorenz Park
Lytle Park
Madison B3 Skate Park
Michigan Road Tennis
Courts:
Oakhill Park
Pearl Park
Playground for All Children
Senior Center
Sunrise Golf Course
Warren R. Rucker Sports Complex
West End Park

For the research, 41 confidential interviews of community leaders and civic workers were conducted to identify strengths and weaknesses within the department. Represen-tatives from both the city and community at large were selected to participate in the interviews.
“One new thing we discovered is that people want the parks department to broaden its programming to include non-sports related events,” said Woodburn.
The study also listed ways the parks department could develop innovative approaches to programming, make better use of the Heritage Trail and Bicentennial Parks, consider a public-private partnership, and increase promotion and collaboration.
“We took the study to heart, and we are working to make some of the recommended changes,” said Armstrong. “We feel the study addressed some real concerns and gave us a positive direction to move toward.”
He said one recommendation was to better develop quality of life programming within the parks that would include events for healthier lifestyles, art and culture, and historic preservation.
“We plan to work with community groups to get a better idea of what is needed and wanted,” he said. “We plan to improve what we have and expand to add a variety of additional programming.”
Armstrong said he looks forward to working with new Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent David Stucker, who recently replaced Harold “Pee Wee” Lakeman. Stucker was formerly the Water Department Manager and brings 19 years of corporate experience and knowledge of parks and recreation from his previous job within the Hanover Parks and Recreation Department.
“Stucker is a real catch for us,” said Armstrong. “His background in industry and his skills with people are a true benefit for us.”
Scott Davidson, director of sports programming for the parks department said that Madison has developed a reputation as an arts haven, so adding in arts and culture to the programming could definitely be a positive move.
“If people are interested in adding arts events, then we need to work with the appropriate people and see what we can do,” he said.
The study also identified several weaknesses within the parks department that included a management philosophy of “always done it that way,” a lack of a clear vision and no formalized planning, budgeting and purchasing practices that could be revamped and an accounting approach that would benefit from a business model of accounting rather than a governmental approach.
In 2009, the parks department was appropriated $1,396,739 in operations. The Jefferson County tax draw was $662,998, while the Jefferson County Treasurer added in $23,500. Part of that total was $659,879 generated by the parks department as earned income.
“We bring in lots but spend more than we should,” said Armstrong.
He said city officials “took a good look around” and realized some of the recommendations could also be put to practice by the “city as a whole.”
“We are now trying to buy in bulk instead of department by department, and we are reorganizing some areas and finding ways to keep better track of spending,” he said. “We are also combining positions within the city to eliminate unnecessary personnel.”

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